Batavia Muckdogs tradition alive thanks to the Rochester Red Wings

There is a great article about the relationship between the Rochester Red Wings and the Batavia Muckdogs over at the MILB website. I know a lot of these articles just go under everyone’s radar so I thought I would post a link to it here for you. I take no credit for it and it is totally written by Benjamin Hill.

http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20141017&content_id=98753978&vkey=min_bus&fext=.jsp&sid=milb

I have posted the article here for all of you. It was written By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com on 10/17/2014 at 10:00 AM ET

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Batavia, New York, is located approximately 35 miles southwest of Rochester, but the two cities are united by more than just geographical proximity. They are also, now more than ever, united by Minor League Baseball.

The Batavia Muckdogs, named for the fertile “muck” farmland that is prevalent in the area, are the lone remaining charter member of the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League. In fact, the league — originally known as the PONY League (Pennsylvania, Ontario, New York) — was founded in the city in 1939. The Red Wings, meanwhile, are the oldest continuously operating franchise in Minor League Baseball. The team, originally known as the Broncos, has competed in the Triple-A International League since 1899, and professional baseball in the region dates back even further.

Both the Muckdogs and the Red Wings are community-owned, and prior to the 2008 season, a relationship was formed between the two entities. The Red Wings are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Muckdogs, assuming all expenses and receiving all revenue. This arrangement has, at the very least, extended the tenuous existence of the Muckdogs, who play in no-frills, city-owned Dwyer Stadium and have for years struggled to draw fans as a result of operating in a small market with a stagnant economy and declining population.

I visited Batavia and Rochester as part of an end-of-season New York-based stadium road trip, and while there spoke to executives in both cities in order to get a better understanding of the unique relationship between the two clubs.

Travis Sick has served as the Muckdogs general manager since 2009, an impressive feat considering that he only began working in Minor League Baseball two seasons prior. He began as a Red Wings intern, transitioning to the Muckdogs front office in 2008 when the Red Wings assumed operations of the team.

“The Red Wings took over because, before that, management weren’t paying their bills, weren’t doing the right thing,” he said, speaking to me during Aug. 22’s game against Mahoning Valley. “The league threatened to take over the team, and from there they probably would have left Batavia and never came back. The Red Wings stepped up and saved baseball in Batavia at that point. It would be a shame to lose it. They’ve been here since 1939 and I don’t think they wanted to see that happen.”

Here, he paused.

“The financials, they’re okay. They’re not great, we’ll put it that way. But the Red Wings are committed to making it work.”

Indeed, the Red Wings have lost money in each of the seven seasons they’ve operated the Muckdogs. However, they receive a five percent stake in the team’s ownership for each year that they do so, meaning that they now own 35 percent of the club. This percentage will be capped at 50 percent after 10 years, with the non-profit community group Genesee County Baseball Club (GCBC) retaining a technical majority.

“In the New York-Penn League, the market price [for a team] is five or six million and [the Red Wings] are going to get some of that back if the team is ever sold,” said Sick. “We have been officially for sale since 2010, but they’re not going to take any lowball effort they can get. They don’t want someone to swoop in and immediately move the team… The [GCBC] isn’t going to accept just any offer that comes through either. Obviously they would have a say in that, being majority owners. If the team is ever sold, the Red Wings get whatever percentage they have and, in the GCBC bylaws, their proceeds from a sale would go to benefit youth in Batavia.”

The Genesee County Baseball Club consists of a 25-member Board of Directors, who are elected each year. Brian Paris serves as GCBC president, and Bill Kauffman as vice-president.

“I attend the board meetings; I answer their questions,” said Sick. “I’m a go-between, between them and the Red Wings. I take their suggestions and suggest things to them that they can help out with the ballpark. They don’t have a lot of money to work with, but they can make certain improvements to enhance the atmosphere. … [GCBC] understands the situation and ultimately want to see baseball succeed here, so they’re going to do anything they can. They spread the word about the Muckdogs and have taken up some sales efforts as well. I’m the only employee who works year-round here, so I can use all of the sales help that I can get.”

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The next day I visited Rochester’s Frontier Field and, while there, spoke with Naomi Silver. Silver is the chairman and chief operating officer of Rochester Community Baseball, the organization that owns the team. Silver is a major player in the team’s decision to take over day-to-day operations of the Muckdogs.

“Batavia was a ballclub that was in that awful position of being under the threat of going out of business,” said Silver. “They could just not afford to operate any longer. It’s a team that has great value, but if you can’t pay your bills and you can’t open the gates then, you’re going nowhere. You have to sell the franchise, the league will force a sale. … It’s not a robust community from which we can draw enough people to make it viable. [Running the Muckdogs] is kind of a community service right now.”

Silver would know a thing or two about baseball-oriented community service. In 1956 her father, Red Wings president Morrie Silver, launched a successful stock drive that raised enough money to keep the team in Rochester.

“[The Red Wings] were in a little bit of trouble because the [parent] St. Louis Cardinals were going to close the operation. At that time it was common to have more than one Triple-A team, and they were going to shut down Rochester because it was not the most successful,” said Silver, regarding the events of 1956. “My dad devised this plan of stock ownership, so he made phone calls and started pounding the pavement to sell shares. It was a pretty public campaign, 8,000 people got involved and they sold 42,000 shares at $10 apiece. That raised almost enough money, and my father put in the rest to buy the franchise and the stadium from the Cardinals. And we have operated successfully ever since.”

The Red Wings remain a community-owned operation to this day. The number of shareholders has declined somewhat, but 42,000 shares remain and Silver estimates that they are valued between $90 and $100.

So was Silver’s family legacy a motivating factor in the Red Wings decision to operate the Muckdogs?

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, after a long pause. “I just kind of fell for them, you know? It’s very tough on a community when they lose a team. Very tough. It’s usually a sign that the population has faltered or the economy has faltered. So we’ll run it for as long as we can.”

Just how much longer remains an open question. The Muckdogs lose money every year, and their market demographics are increasingly out of step within an ever-evolving New York-Penn League that includes attendance powerhouses such as the Brooklyn Cyclones, Lowell Spinners and Aberdeen IronBirds (the only NYPL team to draw fewer fans than the Muckdogs in 2014 were the Jamestown Jammers, who are relocating to Morgantown, West Virginia, for next season). Given these circumstances, it seems improbable that a buyer will emerge who is willing to keep the team in Batavia.

“It’s very rural out here, not a lot of big business, so you’re working with a lot of different sponsors and a lot of smaller groups,” said Sick. “We have to stretch out, marketing not just to Genesee County but the surrounding counties as well. The city of Batavia only has about 16,000 people and Genesee County only has 60,000. We always joke that, per capita, we’re drawing the most in the league. But that doesn’t equate to the bottom line.”

What also doesn’t equate to the bottom line is Batavia’s distinct sense of place and increasingly anachronistic status as a bastion of small-town baseball within a league, and an industry, dominated by larger markets and new, amenity-laden facilities. GCBC vice president Bill Kauffman, a Batavia native and well-known political writer and novelist, spoke to me about the inimitable charm of the Muckdogs during the game I attended in August.

“We consider ourselves the Green Bay Packers of Minor League Baseball. This team was passed on to us, and we hope that we can pass it on to the next generation,” said Kauffman, whose published works include a book about Batavia entitled Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette.

“The stands are a meeting place. You can feel the presence of the people here, and you can feel the presence of those who have passed away. There’s a great continuity. … This is the soul of baseball, right here, and this team is central to our identity.”

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben’s Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Throwback Thursday

On 18 April 1981, 1,740 people entered Pawtucket’s McCoy stadium for the 8.30pm game between Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings. At 4am and 32 innings later, the players were “delirious” and just 19 supporters were left. Another was asleep. All were given season tickets for the McCoy stadium. The sleeping lad – the umpire’s nephew – is believed never to have attended another baseball game.

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A game between Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings. Photograph: Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

Unfortunately I was not at that game, just read about it now, but had I been there I would of stayed till the end! :-)

Red Wings 2015 schedule

The Red Wings start the 2015 season in Buffalo at Coca-Coca Field on Thursday, April 9. Two days later, on Saturday, April 11, Rochester will open up Frontier Field for a 19th season with a 1:35 p.m. matinee against the Bisons. There will be 144 games this season. Here are two downloadable and printable versions of our 2015 schedule.

Click here to see and print the 2015 Red Wings schedule as an 8 1/2′ by 11″ black and white page (pdf file)…..or right-click on the link to save to your computer. If that link does not work you can try this one 2015_Red_Wings_Schedule_8.21.14

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This pdf file will be updated with game times and changes once they are confirmed, and it will always be our goal to have this pdf file be as current of an update as the calendar schedule in this section, which is maintained by MiLB.com; however, during the baseball season, the calendar schedule in this section will always be the official in-season schedule of record.

Click here to see and print our 2015 early edition color schedule, presented by Airport Transmission. (jpg file)…..or right-click on the link to save to your computer.

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Once again the Wings will play a total of 72 home games at Frontier Field with 34 of those contests (over 47% of schedule) falling on weekend dates (Fri-Sun). Also, 49 of Rochester’s home games are scheduled for the prime summer months of June through early September. The Wings have just 9 home games in April, followed by 14 in May, including a day-night doubleheader against Durham on May 19, 18 in June, 16 in July and 15 in August/September.

The Wings have home games scheduled for Father’s Day (June 21) and Independence Day (July 4)

For the first time in several years, the International League has gone to an unbalanced schedule resulting in more games against North Division opponents. The Wings will host the Scranton/WB RailRiders, the Yankees top affiliate, for 10 games in 2015, while entertaining Boston’s top affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox, for 8 games.

The RailRiders make four trips to Rochester next season on June 6-7, June 16-18, August 14-16 and September 1-2. The Paw Sox visit the Flower City on three different occasions: June 4-5, June 29-July 1 and August 29-31.

The 2015 slate takes a three-day hiatus July 13-15 for the annual Triple-A All-Star game between the International League and Pacific Coast League. The 2015 game will be held in Omaha, Neb. on July 15.

With a slightly altered scheduling format in 2015, the Red Wings will play each team in their division (North) anywhere from 17 or 20 times and teams in the South and West Divisions anywhere from six to eight times. Rochester’s North Division opponents are the Buffalo Bisons (Toronto), Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Philadelphia), Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (New York-A) and the Syracuse Chiefs (Washington). Teams in the South Division include the Charlotte Knights (Chicago-A), Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay), Norfolk Tides (Baltimore) and Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta). The West Division consists of the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland), Louisville Bats (Cincinnati), Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh) and Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit).

 

Brian Gionta to sign autographs at Frontier Field

Brian Gionta

Hockey star Brian Gionta will be signing autographs at Frontier Field Aug. 18, the Rochester Red Wings announced Saturday.

The lifelong Greece resident signed a three-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres last month. He will sign autographs from 6 to 6:45 p.m. before the Red Wings face the Syracuse Chiefs.

Gionta served as captain of the Montreal Canadians before signing with the Sabres. He won the Stanley Cup in 2003 while playing for the New Jersey Devils.

Gionta joins a strong lineup of autograph appearances this month, starting with Bills rookie Sammy Watkins, who will be signing autographs this Monday. Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins (Aug. 14) and David Justice (Aug. 24) are scheduled to sign autographs later this month.

Past Stats

Three new members will be added to the Red Wings Hall of Fame

Former Red Wings Royle Stillman and Pepper Martin as well as Rochester baseball great Bob Barr have all been elected into the Class of 2014 Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame, the Wings announced on Wednesday.

The Red Wings Hall of Fame was established in 1989 to recognize individuals who made unique contributions to the history of professional baseball in Rochester, both on and off the field. After the August 29 ceremony, the Red Wings Hall of Fame will include 91 members.

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Royle Stillman was a .314 hitter over 387 career games with the Red Wings from 1973-76. The Red Wings outfielder led the team in batting in both 1973 (.354) and 1975 (.313). Stillman was also an integral part of four playoff teams in Rochester – including Joe Altobelli’s 1974 Governors’ Cup championship team when he hit .292 with 7 homers and 49 RBI over 111 games. Stillman, who would play in parts of three Major League seasons with Baltimore (1975-76) and Chicago-AL (1977), finished his Wings career with 27 home runs and 209 RBI.

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Pepper Martin enjoyed a fantastic 1930 season for the Rochester Red Wings hitting .363 with 71 extra-base hits – including 20 home runs – which helped springboard him to a 13-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals. A four-time All-Star with the Cardinals, Martin was a career .298 hitter with 59 homers and 501 RBI over 1,189 Major League games. Martin returned to Rochester in 1943 playing in 49 games for the Red Wings.

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Bob Barr — a right-handed starting pitcher for Rochester in 1886 and from 1888-1890 — compiled a career record of 97-58 across four seasons with Rochester. In 1889, his 30 victories led the International League after posting a career-high 35 wins in 1888. Rochester played its lone season of Major League Baseball in 1890 with Barr anchoring the pitching staff. His 493 innings pitched and 28 wins paced Rochester that season.

The trio will be enshrined into the Red Wings Hall of Fame in a pre-game ceremony on Friday, August 29 prior to the Wings’ game against the Buffalo Bisons,

This information was provided courtesy of NEWS 10.

Local coach Bob McVean to be honored at Frontier Field

Bob McVean

Bob McVean, head coach of the RIT men’s basketball team, will be honored at the Frontier Field Walk of Fame prior to the Rochester Red Wings game vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday, August 24. McVean will join 22 other individuals along with RIT’s Ritter Arena with a prestigious brick in his honor.

He is the 13th coach, administrator, athlete, staff member, or team from RIT to receive the honor. He joins Lou Alexander Sr., Bill Carey, J. Roger Dykes, F. Ritter Shumway (Ritter Arena), Earl Fuller, Matt Hamill, Ann Nealon, Doug May, Lou Spiotti, Jr., Al Vyverberg, 1982-83 Men’s Hockey Teams, 2009-10 Men’s Hockey Team. In 2011, McVean was inducted into the RIT Athletics Hall of Fame.

McVean will enter his 32nd season at the helm of the RIT men’s basketball program in 2014-15. On February 8, 2013 McVean became the 32nd coach in Division III history to win 500 games. During his tenure, longest among current coaches at RIT, the Tigers have consistently been one of the top teams in the East and all of Division III. McVean, who led RIT to a 16-9 record last year, has an all-time mark of 518-388 in 35 seasons.

The all-time leader in coaching wins in RIT men’s basketball history (460), McVean led the Tigers to 19 consecutive winning seasons from 1991-2010, and posted six 20-win seasons. He led the Tigers to the Sweet Sixteen of the 1997 NCAA Tournament, the deepest showing in the tournament in RIT basketball history. In 2009, he guided RIT to the Empire 8 championship, and its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2000. Last season, McVean led the Tigers to a 16-9 record, narrowly missing out on a berth in the Liberty League Tournament.

On February 28, 2009, McVean earned his 400th career coaching win at RIT, In addition, he coached 2009 All-American Mark Carson, who led all of Division III and was second only to 2009 NBA first overall draft pick Blake Griffin in rebounding. In 2008-09, he led RIT to a 19-9 mark, securing his sixth Empire 8 championship.

Source and thanks for this article go to and belong to: http://www.ritathletics.com/news/2014/7/16/MBB_0716143106.aspx

Rochester Red Wings Looking to Make $7.5 Million in Renovations to Frontier Field

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When I first heard about this I gave my wife a quizzical look. We go see the games a lot at Frontier Field and are very happy with what we see. The stadium is in good shape, all the grounds look good, even the outside areas that get tons of snow and pounding from Rochester’s winters are in good shape. So why do they need 7.5 million to repairs? I did a little digging and found the following news over at http://www.rochesterhomepage.net

The Rochester Red Wings are swinging for the fence when it comes to Frontier Field renovations.

Naomi Silver, President and CEO of the Rochester Red Wings hopes so, “It’s well used. The fans have loved it here. We take a lot of pride in this facility in Rochester. It’s almost a landmark here.”  

Monroe County and the Red Wings hope the state will give them a hand in financing the $7.5 million dollar makeover.  Under the proposal, the county would dish out $2.4 million, the Red Wings: $600,000 and the state would pay for the remaining $4.5 million.

Naomi added, “It really takes bigger dollars to make these things happen when we are looking for big renovations and 18 years is a long time for a facility, so, we want to ensure another 18 years here.”

The new grass field alone could cost up to $1 million.  The renovations would also have major perks for fans.

“Add some picnic areas to do some painting here that I think the fans will appreciate because they look around and they notice that there are some things that need to be done here,” said Silver.

Also on the agenda, new restrooms, a sound system and a museum in the old firehouse.

“We have people who would love to give us things and a collection of our own that we would like to house so that’s something we have talked about for a number of years and that would be part of this project as well,” said Silver.

And if you aren’t the biggest Red Wings fan but attend Frontier Field for concerts, there’s this perk: a new pedestrian bridge onto the field.

The county and city are on board with the changes. Now, the ball is in the hands of the state.

Here is some additional information for all of you.

Rochester Community Baseball, Inc. are the owners of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings baseball team.

The company was formed when in 1956 the St. Louis Cardinals announced that they would no longer operate the franchise in Rochester. Local businessman Morrie Silver led a community stock drive to purchase the team and the stadium. Silver and 8,221 shareholders purchased the team from the Cardinals on February 27, 1957 and gained affiliation with the Baltimore Orioles in 1961.

Silver served as the team president and general manager. His daughter Naomi Silver is the Chairman of the Board.

As of 12 December 2011, there were 215 shareholders within the team with equity stakes at 0.1% to 5.0% per person.

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With that said I am trying to figure out for the life of me why the stadium need to have 7.5 million in renovations. In the beginning of this year the field was in excellent shape, and from the people I spoke to so far all say the same thing. I just don’t get it. Add the painting they want to do, new restrooms and I still fall way short of what they are asking for. The only thing I can see that costs any real money is this pedestrian bridge that they are talking about but that can’t be the bulk of the money can it?

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Restrooms? Really? Seriously?

Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the games but I would rather see 4.5 million from NYS rather go to things that really need to be upgraded NOW, like roads, bridges and God forbid “pothole” repairs.

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What do you people think? I added a poll at the top of the page if you would like to give your 2 cents worth. Just leaves me scratching my head! To many questions, not enough answers and to little news coverage. I don’t like it when mum’s the word!

Burt Ward to headline Batman & Robin Night

Burt Ward will appear at Frontier Field June 28.

Holy iconic TV star!

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Caped Crusader’s first appearance, the Red Wings have announced Batman and Robin Night on June 28 – presented by Wesley Gardens Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Services, 96.5 WCMF, News10NBC and MeTV Rochester. The Wings will host the Norfolk Tides, the top affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, at 7:05 p.m; the gates open at 6 p.m. This multi-media celebration of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder will include:

POW! An autograph appearance by Burt Ward, who played Robin in the
ABC series Batman and the 20th Century Fox film Batman
ZAP! An appearance by the Batmobile, an exact replica of the car from the TV series and film
WHAMM! Giveaways including the new DC Universe original movie Son of Batman
BAM! The post-game fireworks show will feature music from and inspired by the
Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman film series and the Christopher Nolan
Dark Knight film series

Actor Burt Ward was 19 years old when he appeared with Adam West in Batman, which premiered in January 1966. The series aired for three seasons and also prompted the 1966 feature film. The TV series was a pop culture sensation with its campy approach, bright colors, and celebrity guest stars. Episodes still air across the country, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced that the series will be released for the first time on DVD later this year. 2014 is the the 75th anniversary of the DC Comics Batman character’s first appearance, with a national Batman Day announced for July 23.

Ward and his wife Tracy founded Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions, a non-profit charitable organziation which rescues giant breed dogs like Great Danes. Their work with Gentle Giants has been featured in People magazine and on Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight and the Animal Planet network. Ward also keeps a busy schedule appearing at comic-cons and Batman fan conventions.

On June 28, Ward will sign autographs from 6-6:45 p.m, be a guest on Red Wings Pre-Game Live on the field, and throw out the first pitch. He will also sign autographs from 7:10-8 p.m. Official event color photos will be available for $10 each, and include a free autograph from Ward; any other items will be signed for $40 each, with proceeds going to the Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions organization. As with our other autograph sessions, time will not permit fans to ask to pose with our guest for photos or videos.

The Batmobile

The Batmobile fans will see on June 28, shown above, is an exact replica of the famed TV series car. This Batmobile is owned by Red Wings fan, Batman fan, auto enthusiast and Supervisor of the Town of Greece Bill Reilich. Fans will be able to take photos of the Batmobile while it’s on display in the concourse during the autograph session.

Click here to order tickets online right now for June 28…or call (585) 423-WING (9464) during regular Frontier Field Ticket Office hours.

All books, titles, characters, character names, slogans, logos, and related indicia are trademarks of and copyright DC Comics.

Meet Darryl Strawberry June 12

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Each season, the Rochester Red Wings offer their fans the opportunity to get a free autograph from former Major League Baseball and NFL stars, as part of our promotions schedule. Over the past few years, Wings fans have enjoyed appearances by Baseball Hall of Famers Paul Molitor, Harmon Killebrew, Rich “Goose” Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley, and former big league stars including Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Tug McGraw, Mookie Wilson, Dave Stewart, Steve Garvey and many more.

To insure that as many fans as possible have the chance to meet our special guests and get an autograph, fans are reminded that

  • there is a limit of one autograph per fan.
  • there will be a posted time frame for the autograph sessions (listed below)
  • time does not permit fans to ask to pose for individual photos with our guests
  • there may be a restriction on what type of items will be signed (listed below)
  • WEATHER: the autograph session will take place regardless of the weather, and regardless of whether the game is delayed or played. The gates will open at the scheduled time regardless of the weather conditions.

All autograph sessions will take place in front of the Red Wings Hall of Fame, first base concourse between Mama Mittsy’s Pizza Kitchen and Pop ‘N’ Hots (unless otherwise specified below). Fans are welcome to bring one item of their own to be signed; baseballs and photos will be available for purchase in the autograph area.